Thursday, 18 August 2016

Mike's Hands

Mike and I celebrated his 52nd birthday this week. The celebrations were low-key; after all the animals were tended to, we threw a few logs on the outdoor fire and drank a bottle of champagne, a kind gift from Mike's employers. We discussed rams going to market, pheasants yet to be delivered to other shoots, ageing dogs, and that day's deer sightings. You know, the usual birthday banter.

It was a warm evening, and Mike had his sleeves rolled up. Looking at his hands and arms he sighed sadly. Mike is very self-conscious of the scars and grafts that crisscross his arms. I took a picture of them -

His fingers don't bend, and the webbing between them tears. He's always banging his knuckles and making them bleed, but he can't feel it. Sometimes his hands swell from lymphoedema and I rub them to try and disperse the swelling. Mike can only straighten his elbows as much as you see in the picture because the muscle is damaged from the burns.

And he can only rotate his arms this much. His pinky joints are hooked because the tendons tightened irreversibly. The skin on his hands is always dry and dirt stays in the creases of his palms.

It was a big step for him to let me photograph his hands.

Mike hates when people tell him he's brave. He says there's nothing brave about having an accident, and he wouldn't do it again - not even for charity. I tell him he's brave for how he's dealt with life after the accident. And that he's still a big pain in my ass, so he's not all that different from before the accident, scars or no. 

Eight years ago his doctors sat me down in a private room and told me he wasn't going to live. Now we're celebrating his 52nd birthday. Bravery, blind luck, or determination? Maybe some of each. 

Here's to your 53rd birthday and beyond.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Loosey Gooseys

The orphaned Canada Goose goslings have all grown up. We started with one gosling, but quickly acquired three more, all siblings from the same pair of Geese. Perhaps the geese were a young pair who hadn't quite grasped the responsibilities of parenthood yet. Responsibility no. 1 - Don't let strangers walk off with your kids.

Anyway, the goslings have survived, mostly intact. I say mostly because Ian put the goslings in an A-frame pen on the grass. The pen was tight as they grew and didn't allow the geese much space to stretch their wings. The wingtips of two geese didn't muscle properly so at the moment they can't fly. I checked the bones are fine, and turned the wingtips to fold in correctly. Over time, the muscles should develop and they will be able to fly.

It was time to release the geese into the wild to fend for themselves. Sort of. Semi-wild. I chose a secluded pond just below the goat house. The geese will be far enough away from the main ponds not to be shot at, and I can feed them every day after milking the goats.

We put a dog crate in the back of the ATV and loaded the geese for their short journey.

We carried them from the crate straight to the pond. By evening their natural instincts kicked in enough that they avoided me. When I checked on them, they all made for the reed cover, and hunkered down until I left. They eat the food I leave for them, but have made it clear they are wild geese now, and want none of the fuss we give livestock.

Oh, except the daily feeds. That's cool with them..

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Wildlife and Wild Boys

After nine weeks without a home internet connection, we are finally back on-line. Via satellite. It was our only option as we're too rural to reach any broadband connections. I've just finished a two hour cyber-binge, looking up all those random questions that come to me during the day. Nine weeks' worth. I now know what the Dover devil is, a good recipe for soap, current market prices for lambs, and who played Mrs Kotter in the 1970's show Welcome Back Kotter. (183.4p avg and Marcia Strassman respectively). Some of the answers are more vital than others, I give you that.

By looking at online photos of birds and birds' eggs, I also confirmed that a spotted flycatcher has hatched a brood of chicks in a tree hollow in our orchard.

It's at eye level so I can peek inside when the mother is out, presumably looking for flies to catch. Two of the three eggs hatched a few days ago-

The chicks are only the size of my thumbnail, 

This apple tree happens to be one of the trees that holds up my washing line -

While the flycatcher family has been in residence, I've been drying our laundry in the dryer or on an airer in the sun room, to keep from disturbing mother flycatcher.

The wood stove door remains open too. We still have at least a bird a day coming down the chimney, both fledglings and adults. It's school holidays so maybe the sparrows - it's always sparrows - treat it as a fun slide. Their activities are dislodging lots of creosote build-up in the flue. At this rate, they will have swept my chimney clean by winter.

The farm animals, on the other hand, are testing my patience. I split the ram lambs from the ewes and ewe lambs now. I only hope it was soon enough and there are no surprise babies in the dead of winter. (I'm already 1-nil with goats and surprise babies.). I normally castrate the male lambs at birth and, as I watched a youngster sniff and court an old ewe, I tried hard to remember why I decided not to cut them this year. Something about growing faster, less fat I think. An experiment.

So what happens when you separate pubescent ram lambs from their mothers, and put them in a field on their own, unsupervised by sensible old ewes? Imagine a playground full of 13 year olds with no adults around. Oh, and add a weak fence to that scenario, and "cool stuff" the other side.

Every damn morning those boys are the wrong side, in the neighbours' field, hanging out with horses (aka the bigger boys). The neighbours are great about it, and say there is plenty of grass to go around. I'm horrified and drive the delinquents back to their own paddock with my crook and some harsh words. You can see for yourself how many ways I've patched the fence -

Hurdles, cable ties, baling twine, logs, and an old hay rack wired into the fence. And while I'm patching the day's new hole and cursing like a drunk sailor, this is what I see -

They are just waiting for me to leave so they can start testing the fence for the weak spots, and push back through to the neighbours and the horses. Delinquents and recidivists. 

I'm moving them tonight to a field with a good fence. I will get in touch with the estate as they are responsible for fencing, and ask them to renew the boundary fence. The new field also has really good grass, so these boys can fatten up and go off to market. Ram lambs are too vexing with their testicles left on!

Pumpkin the wether (front) and horned ram lamb born January, to stay as my breeding tup. 
Both are good sensible boys.